The Wide Angle: We are all marked by history

Published 6:16 am Saturday, April 20, 2019

Every human life on Earth can boast, “I remember when” moments. Those moments are otherwise known as “where were you when” moments.

These moments can be something so personal as a first kiss to the first broken heart, to something much more momentous like the moon landing.

When I was in school, I had a few of those smaller moments, like getting kicked out of choir.

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There’s something to be said about that feat in and of itself. First and foremost, I was being a jerk and the teacher who did the kicking-out, Cathy Yseth, had reached the end of my hijinks, though I suppose she may have had a different term for it.

At any rate, I visited with the principal and then, of course, I ran into my dad, who asked why I was there and had another delightful conversation at home later that evening.

Banner day.

At any rate, my time in school mostly consisted of those kind of moments. For instance, I remember I was in the second row … being a jerk.

There were a few moments in school that were a little more worthy of rememberance. The Minnesota Twins winning not one, but two World Series, consisted of two of my really big moments.

The problem is, as a kid there isn’t much outside the scope of your kidly world that registers. Though I suppose that’s not much of an excuse given I wasn’t real good at high school dating or high school partying.

Still, I’m not entirely sure where I was when the Twins won the World Series. Probably at home. That’s a pretty good bet. Being lame.

The first real big historic event that I can remember, outside the Twinkies’ success, was sitting through and watching as it happened, the first Gulf War in 1990 to 1991. There were plenty of other events similar to this I suppose, conflicts on a slightly smaller scale. The Falklands War I vaguely remember, as well as the US storming Panama to arrest Manuel Noriega, but this was the first actual war I remember watching and because of the growth of technology, things were in real time, which brought the early 90s conflict that much closer.

To watch the actual conflict unfold was mesmerizing and in a lot of ways unreal. While it wasn’t visible before my very eyes, each bomb dropping meant I was seeing people die.

In September of 2001, while at the Huron Plainsman, I was at home when the call came from the office that something big was happening in New York. Not even an hour later I was at a church, photographing people praying as the Twin Towers in New York City were falling. Throughout the day we watched the horror unfold with the entire world.

There were other things. I remember actually witnessing my first tornado along Highway 281 south of Huron as I emerged from the southern edge of the storm.

And still others register  throughout my lengthening life that qualify for that kind of memory.

I was thinking about this these past two weeks. When I was in the office last week, I watched with so many other people as the unbelievable was being reported. The first image of a black hole.

In my life we have gone from a black hole being a theory, to strong circumstantial evidence based on indirect observations to proof that black holes are a thing. It’s an amazing thing to include in one’s life.

I was also thinking about these things as Notre Dame Cathedral burned Monday. Sitting at home on my day off, I was transfixed by the images coming over the TV as the flames ate away at the roof of the historical structure, threatening to engulf the entire church.

As a fan of history, to watch this much physical history being eaten away and possibly be lost to time was heart-wrenching, but at the same time we started to see just how well built that structure was, by people who had no cranes as we have them today or electricity to run tools.

It withstood a fire and no doubt, will be rebuilt.

These things are what make these moments in time so memorable and worth keeping archived in our minds. We humans are capable of a lot of things — both good and evil — and there are lessons to take from each part of history that filters past our eyes.

Along the way though, we see achievements and in the face of roaddblocks that sometimes appear to set our species back, there are moments of real progress that will have our children thinking, “I know where I was when that happened.”

That’s living history.